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Feature - 3 December 2007 (SPG PowerTech)

Slow Burn Toward Nuclear Power Australia and New Zealand often appear on the world stage as two brothers, but like many siblings they've grown apart. Today, Australia may be moving away from New Zealand's isolationist geopolitical stance, turning towards nuclear power as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Fleur Doidge investigates.

Australia, home to perhaps the largest deposits of uranium anywhere in the world, does not have a single nuclear power station of its own. The one small nuclear reactor at Lucas Heights, to the south of the nation's financial capital and largest city, Sydney, is dedicated to research only. For many decades Australia has bowed to at-the-time fashionable thinking that a population of fewer than 20 million does not need to take on the presumed hazards of nuclear energy. But times are changing – Australia's current government favours nuclear power as the best available answer to the pressing problem of how to slash greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic growth, and the high standard of living Australians take for granted. Little brother New Zealand couldn't be less impressed. The South Pacific nation has consistently thumbed its nose at powers like the US that make acceptance of nuclear energy – be it nuclear-powered warships or power plants – conditional for assistance and support. With nuclear power conflated in many Kiwi minds with mushroom clouds and the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the country has been only too happy to continue that way. But the heat is on. While New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark and her Labour government continue to vehemently oppose the technology, Australia's prime minister, long-reigning Liberal ...


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